How to Embrace the Bittersweet When Life Gets Hard

Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything just feels hard?

Being a mom is hard.

Being a wife is hard.

Being a boss is hard.

Being a friend is hard.

One of those weeks where you are grateful when Friday finally arrives, because you want nothing more than to crawl up in a ball, pull the covers over your head, and lose yourself in a tub of ice cream and a Netflix marathon.

Not long ago I was having exactly that kind of week, and so, feeling like I was at the end of my rope, I went to go visit my mom.

Ruth's mom is a loving and reliable support when life gets tough

And in the way that moms do, she sat and listened as I told her about my bad day.

She was so sweet and kind and empathetic that I couldn’t help start to feel a little better. It wasn’t that she had any advice to offer, or even any words of wisdom, but mostly that she was just willing to sit in that moment with me and feel my frustration right along with me.

It meant everything.

We talked about other things too, about my daughters Maggie and Annie, and how school was going and their new violin teacher and about the cute new house that my sister has been fixing up, and about my brother’s new job and the latest news stories, and I showed her the cute pictures we had taken a few weeks earlier.

And then, as I was about to leave, I took the notepad from her table and wrote down everything we talked about, and I thanked her for being so kind and understanding.

Because without that note, she wouldn’t remember anything we talked about.

You see, my mom has dementia.

For the most part she remembers people, and can recall much from the past, but her short-term memory is almost completely gone. Every day is a blank slate. And every day we have with her is a precious gift.

After I finished writing, I handed her the notebook so that she could read what I wrote, knowing that she had probably already forgotten most of the conversation.

She quietly read it to herself several times, and then finally she said, “Thank you. Thank for telling me I was kind, and that it helped you. I think we should all be kind to each other more often.”

Ruth knows she can always turn to her mother when life gets hard.

Oh how right she is!

I don’t know about you, but in those kind of weeks, where everything feels hard, I find myself wishing that things could just be easy sometimes. I often want a quick fix that just isn’t there.

But wishing things were different isn’t going to get me very far.

And so I know I have to make a choice. I can wallow in the unfairness of it all, or I can take a deep breath and move on and choose to be kind. I can choose to see the beauty within the mess, and to appreciate the good that comes with the bad. I can feel sorry for myself or I can choose to make the best of a bad situation. I can run away or I can choose to stay and fight.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The greatest measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Along those same lines, Supreme Court justice William J. Brennan noted that sometimes “we must meet the challenge, rather than wish it were not before us.”

In other words, sometimes we need the bitter to taste the sweet.

Ruth's mother and her loving granddaughters

And sometimes we just have to accept that life is what it is, and make the choice to rise above our circumstances, to be kind and grateful, even when we don’t feel like it, and even when we shouldn’t have to.

After all, our greatest character is built in times like these.

And so, my challenge for you, if you are feeling like things are harder than they should be right now, is to not give up.

Curl up in bed with a tub of your favorite ice cream and Netflix marathon if you have to, but choose to make the best of a hard situation. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Refuse to run away. Choose kindness and gratitude.

The strength to prevail is there inside you.

You might just have to dig a little deeper to find it.

Embracing the Bittersweet | What to Do When Life Feels Hard

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  1. Dear Ruth,
    Thank you for your vulnerability. My mom is dying of cancer and I thank you for this.

    I pray that every moment you spend will your mom will be filled with joy.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. It’s only Monday, and already the week feels HARD. But I’m brought to tears as I think about one of my kids who needs me to be a “kind” mom while they go through hard stuff right now. Thank you for helping me take my eyes off my own struggles and think about how I might show this kind of love to someone else.

  3. Thank you for this. It just reminded me of myself as I was feeling the same for at least days. Then my friend phoned with some news and I realised that I was OK. There are people in worse situations than me. I chose to be positive and see the beauty. It has also given me inspiration to write down my feelings and the reason for them.

  4. Thank you for sharing. Perfect timing as life hasn’t been this rough for quite some time. Thank you for reminding me the strength I need prevails in me. Right now I just need to dig deeper.

  5. Ruth,
    Thank you so much for this post. We are going through a hard time with a family situation right now, and I would love nothing more than to sit and talk about it with my mom, who passed away 11 years ago. In my mind, she would know what to do and how to handle it. Today has been a day of tears, but I’m pressing on and praying for strength and courage to keep pressing on. I’m also trying to enjoy the many blessings I have, and choosing kindness, even when I don’t feel like it. Thanks for your encouraging words, and know that I’m praying for you too : )

  6. I really needed to hear this today! Thank you. Things have been so rough these past few days, and I have been trying to convince myself I can get through it all without giving up my dreams. Your words have helped.

    I wish you as much quality time as possible with your mom. That’s not an easy place to be.

  7. Thank you, Ruth. This week my brother and I decided to pursue guardianship of our dad, who has dementia. It is going to be a long and difficult road, but hopefully with some silver linings as well. I am saving this post to reread at the hard times. Thank you.

    1. I’m glad this post could bring your some hope during this difficult time. Praying for you and your brother Laura!

  8. As I read this all I could do is agree. Last week was one of those weeks. On Wednesday my husband had two doctor appointments. One was with a Med. Dr. because he hadn’t been feeling well and the other with an Eye Dr, because of pain in one eye. I woke up that morning to a message from my nephews mom that he had been arrested, the next phone call was the assisted living nurse where my in laws live. They wanted to know if my husband could come right over or if they should call an ambulance for his mother. She also has dementia. He told her to call an ambulance as we were leaving for his first Dr. apt. Stop. Say a Prayer. Take a deep breath and move forward.

  9. Thank you Ruth for giving confidence.Life is really hard when our near and dear ones suffer. My mom got mild paralysis due to stroke since from 5 months(in September).She only tells one thing please send me up to god I don’t want to live like this.(Her Left side has got effected).its was very hard in the beginning to make her understand that dying is not in our hands but staying with a positive is in our hands.Due to money problems we couldn’t admit her in the hospital .On that day I felt very bad about leaving my job and having no money.I being a stay at home mom having no earning of mine I couldn’t help much ,but whatever savings I had I helped but it was and is less.Now my mom walks like small baby taking baby steps with the help of walker.Each and everyday is really a challenge for me and my parents.Everyday I have to give her a positive boost,but sometimes she gets tired and feels it would have been better if she would have died insted of living like this.My parents house is very small ,there the toilet is very small, she can’t go to toilet.The nurse used to put the adult diaper to her..But now we brought her the toilet chair.She tells me what I did bad of anyone so that I am alive like this.I tell its not your fault ,its as we couldn’t do her immediate treatment ,she is in this condition. Everyday I search for stroke videos,sites ,foods ,learn and try to give her positive talks.I am struggling hard to do some earning to help my mom. I am not able to concentrate on my work.I launched my blog but I am not able to concentrate on it properly.I always see you Ruth and think of asking you this question,”How you manage everything even after so many problems?How do you concentrate on your blog when you have so many problems?Its not easy.I will pray for your mom Ruth and each and every member who commented here about there hard situation.God bless each and everyone of us with his miracles and recover our loved ones.

  10. Thank you. The hard days are real! But even more, thank you for the picture of how you are doing life and relationship with your mom. My dad has Alzheimer’s Dementia and is slipping further away from us. I’m real learning how to be “with” him. How to love him. How to receive his love that looks very different than it used to. Thank you.

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